Cassie glanced at her watch and closed her book. It had been fifteen minutes since she’d checked on the kids, and with this family, that was enough. The twins had celebrated a birthday after Christmas; Cassie hoped being eight would be calmer than being seven. The job didn’t pay very well, the kids were always a handful and she had tons of homework, but she liked Mrs. Benton and knew she needed help. Being a single mother had to be tough. And working on Saturdays had to make it tougher.
As she neared the backdoor, Cassie heard a crash from the yard. She hurried the rest of the way, pushing from the warmth of the house to the chill of outside, taking in the scene in a glance as she stepped onto the porch.
James stood in the middle of a pile of boards, looking frustrated. His hammer, part of a tool kit he’d received from his dad, hung in his hand. He surveyed the pile of lumber and looked at Cassie. “I was going to make a tree house,” he said lamely.
“You just got the tools a couple of weeks ago,” Cassie said. “Don’t you think that’s a big job for your first project?”
Before James could answer, the fire alarm inside sounded, and Cassie had a sudden mental image of Amy and her new baking set.
“What happened?” Cassie asked as she bolted inside. Amy stood in the kitchen, surrounded by smoke.
“I was going to cook dinner for Mom,” Amy said as she waved a towel in front of her face.
Cassie coughed. “Open the windows and let’s get the house aired out!”
Half an hour later, Cassie and the twins had finished putting the pile of boards into a neat stack and went back in the house. Closing the windows, Cassie directed the twins to the living room. “Sit,” she ordered, pointing to the couch. She looked as stern as she knew how. “What were the two of you thinking?”
“I was thinking, ‘Hey, I have a tool kit now – I can make something.’ Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with that stuff?” James arched his eyebrows, waiting for her answer.
“And I was thinking that, since Daddy gave me a baking set, it’d be nice for Mom to come home to dinner. Was that a bad idea?”
Cassie looked from Amy to James. “What you did wasn’t wrong,” she started slowly. “It was just too much.”
“Too much what?”
“Too much everything.” Cassie frowned. “Too much for the first time you try something new. There’s a verse in the Bible that says ‘there is a time for every purpose’. Your purposes were timed wrong. You need to learn before you take off on such huge projects.”
James frowned. “But I really want a tree house!”
“And I really want to help Mom!” Amy whined.
Cassie held her hands up. “And you will. But first … first we learn what we’re doing!”
James and Amy’s mother arrived home later, right on time. “How were they?” she asked as she entered the house.
Together they walked into the kitchen. Hot brownies and dessert plates sat on the table. “I know we’re not supposed to have dessert first,” Amy said, “but I thought maybe tonight it would be okay. Cassie helped me with the brownies, and I helped her make lasagna. It’s in the oven.”
James appeared from the hallway. “I made a gift for you,” he announced. He produced a small wooden key holder. “I didn’t do it all by myself. Cassie called her dad and he came over and helped a little. He gave me the hanger and the hooks and bought the stain, too. But I did most it. I thought you could put it up by the door and hang your car keys on it.”
Mrs. Benton looked fro the key holder to the brownies to Amy to James. She looked overwhelmed. “What happened here today?” she asked as James ushered her to the table.
“You think this is good,” Amy said, smiling, “just wait! Soon I’ll be making dinner all by myself!”
“And we can eat it in the tree house!”
Mrs. Benton’s eyes widened. “The tree house? Oh, boy! I can’t wait!”
James smiled at Cassie. He looked at his mom. “You’re going to have to,” he said. “Because there’s a time for every purpose, and that time hasn’t come yet. But it will, Mom. It will.”
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